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Rep. Michael Willette (R-Presque Isle)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 03/14/12

Rep. Mike Willette Presents Community Paramedicine Bill

House Republican Office

March 12, 2012

For more information:

Jay Finegan, 287-1445


AUGUSTA - State Rep. Mike Willette has formally presented a bill that would authorize pilot projects for community paramedicine programs, which he says would reduce MaineCare costs and assist in early recognition of urgent medical conditions.

Rep. Willette (R-Presque Isle) introduced the measure, LD 1837, before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on March 7. "As a former Emergency Medical Technician, I know the value that a strong paramedic service can provide to a community and its citizens," he said. "Paramedics are highly skilled and very well-trained healthcare professionals. They are, more often than not, the main link to survival for a person in distress."

LD 1837 is a governor's bill. Essentially, it would empower the Maine Emergency Medical Services Board to authorize pilot projects in community paramedicine. An opinion handed down by the Office of the Maine Attorney General stated that the Board does not have the authority to implement a pilot project of this nature. The bill provides that authority.

Rep. Willette, who served as an Army combat medic during Desert Storm, explained to the Committee the rationale for the legislation. "The idea behind community paramedicine takes the work done by Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics to a new level," he said. "The benefits of a vibrant community paramedicine program would lead to a reduction in MaineCare costs paid by the state for unnecessary ambulance trips to the hospital and expensive procedures that are most times non-essential.

"Furthermore," he said, "there is the added benefit experienced by the patient through being treated in the comfort of their own home, thus eliminating needless travel. Yet another benefit we will enjoy as a result of paramedics seeing more patients is that they will be increasingly educated and possess progressively sharpened skill sets."

A number of ambulance company officials testified in favor of the bill. Thomas Judge, a Port Clyde resident, spoke on behalf of the St. George Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Association, based in Tenants Harbor. He also was representing the Association's medical director, Dr. Chris Michalakes, chief of emergency medicine at Penobscot Bay Medical Center.

"It is important to understand what community paramedicine is and is not," he told Committee members at the public hearing. "These initiatives do not replace existing healthcare services but rather, on an episodic basis, provide eyes and ears, discreet assessments and intervention, and help fill an existing healthcare gap in a cost-effective manner. Sometimes small, low-cost interventions leverage tremendous savings."

Mr. Judge said his association anticipates the passage of LD 1837 and is already laying the foundation for a pilot project. Working with local doctors and home health agency staffers, they have identified 23 patients with recurrent, intensive healthcare needs. The support services provided by paramedicine, he said, would reduce emergency department admissions, improve quality of life and extend the time these patients can live at home.

With a substantial portion of our elderly population living at home, he said, extending the time of a transition to nursing home care is one of the most cost-effective means of saving money in the healthcare system.

The Maine Medical Association testified at the public hearing as neither for nor against the bill. The MMA's associate general counsel, Jessa Barnard, listed a number of concerns, including training requirements, coordination of care, a limit on the number of pilot projects and oversight of the program. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445